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Top Digital Transformation Trends in Pharma For 2021

Leaders of pharma and life sciences industry are in the midst of unprecedented change caused by the pandemic. While the industry was experiencing the wave of transformation even before COVID-19, the unannounced outbreak and the following economic downturn have brought about a gigantic change in the way organizations operate and function. Ostensibly, it has accelerated the rate of change by making organizations to reconsider clinical trials, drug development, and treat patients in hospitals and their homes. But, most importantly, it has spurred the adoption of digital transformation in pharma to not only gather data insights to execute business strategies, but also to improve patient access and support, provide brand value propositions, and faster time to market of drugs.

Our blog will throw a light on what ‘digital transformation in pharma’ means and which trends pharma companies should capitalize on to stay top of their games in 2021.

Digital Transformation in Pharma

Digital transformation in pharma means the positive impact the technology is bringing in the field of drugs and care delivery. Telehealth, AI-enabled medical solutions, virtual reality, connected care, self- monitoring, big data analytics are just a few examples of digital transformation. And these trends are completely redefining, how we improve interact with health practitioners, how our data is shared among other healthcare providers and how decisions are made about our clinical trials, treatment, and health outcomes. 

Digital Innovation is the game here, with the main objective of streamlining physicians’ work, optimizing systems, improving efficiency, uncovering new business opportunities, building better relationships with patients and prescribers, and importantly reducing human errors.

One good example is of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British multinational pharmaceutical company, partnered with Icreon to improve digital business marketing operations and productivity in terms of selecting the right technologies, building the right capabilities and implementing the most efficient processes.

Do you know?

A report published by Fior Markets says that “the global digital health market is forecasted to grow from USD 96.23 billion in 2019 and to USD 623.20 billion by 2027, which is a speed of a CAGR of 22.07% during the forecast period 2020-2027."

Seeing this forecast, it is important for pharma leaders to embrace digital technology to bring in more business.

Key Trends in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry is witnessing a massive revamp from drug discovery advancement to innovative breakthroughs (telemedicine and online care), AI and marketing automation. Here are top trends that are uplifting the face of pharma and life sciences.

Increase in Medicine Spending 

Following the COVID-19 effect, developed countries are seeing a steady growth in spending on medicine in 2021. As per a study conducted by IQVIA on global use of medicine, it has been found that spending will exceed $1.4 trillion by the end of 2021. This represents a continuous increase in comparison to prior years. The major drivers of growth are new products and the technologies establishing roots in leading pharmaceutical markets. The trend will likely continue through 2023. 

Faster time-to-market for Drug Discovery

Technologies are playing a big role in drug discovery. Using AI and Big Data, pharma companies can perform early-stage experiments to lower time and costs by bringing new drug formulations faster to the market. The whole process of research and development cycle spanning across data management, drugs testing, and trials involve digitally driven solutions for which pharma is collaborating with health-tech partners to expedite the journey of drug discovery.

AI and Hyper Personalization

The term hyper personalization means good business results, provided that the content healthcare providers receive is highly relevant. With AI, real-time data can be harnessed to deliver highly targeted content. Hyper personalization allows pharma brands to engage with customers in a better way and develop stronger and meaningful relationships. For example- a progressive sequence of questions in automated chat conversations allows pharma executives to identify customer needs in a detailed manner. This further allows the data to be sorted into individual personas, each with their unique use cases, such as email chains that are customized on the basis of each customer needs.

As per a recent report published by Forrester, only 15% of companies are tapping into AI to enhance customer experience effectively. One can imagine its usage in pharma marketing; it is modicum. Once in use, AI offers unprecedented growth and ensures better optimization and control over marketing.

Telehealth and Online Patient Care

The rise of remote healthcare and telehealth is going to be a new trend in pharma marketing. As people are turning more and more to mobile, it has become a game changing aspect to the industry. COVID-19 even made health practitioners to shift to telehealth platforms for care delivery, through phone, app, or website. Digital platforms offer care, saw exponential growth and have created newer opportunities for pharma brands to explore digital mediums.

According to a combined research conducted by BCG and the Future of Work 2020 IPA, it has been found that over 70% of prescribers are interested in healthcare companies that are using digital mediums.

Companies like Mednections, a doctor referral platform, offer a robust web-based platform for primary care. The portal uses emerging technologies like Machine Learning based service (Amazon Polly), Artificial Intelligence and Voice Response as the primary technologies to make it convenient for physicians to provide on-demand healthcare to patients suffering from specific disorder that match their expertise and schedule.

Connected healthcare using wearables

Another trend in digital transformation in pharma industry is the increasing adoption of wearable technology. In the current times, patients are focusing on prevention and maintenance, and are seeking information on most health vitals more frequently. As a result, healthcare companies are fast moving towards wearables and connected devices, where IoT sensors (heart rate, oximeters, exercise trackers, etc.) provide the first level diagnostics in a very intuitive manner. According to a recent report, the wearable market is expected to increase and will reach close to $27 million by 2023.

Other crucial benefits of connected healthcare include personalization of healthcare experiences, insurance incentives, and gamification opportunities. Furthermore, this innovation can help healthcare providers to save money. One study revealed that wearables & devices could save the U.S. healthcare system around $7 billion per year.

Emphasis on the Value Proposition

In the past, no emphasis was given to the value proposition of the drug. When markets are competitive, it is obviously the case that the strongest participant wins or the one who communicates the market to the best wins. This year, the demand for brand value propositions supported by clinical and real-world facts will gain momentum. And as patients and decision-makers are armed with more and more information, the new value proposition needs to fit in with experience, behaviors and needs of each individual. Pharma leaders will need to focus on developing strategies and tactics which support value-based propositions to thrive in the competitive market. For example, Jazz Pharma, a pharmaceutical company, is teamed up with Icreon to develop enterprise level digital strategy that would help the company to stand out from the competition.

Natural Language Processing for Patient Enrollment

Today, NLP is everywhere: in word and sentence predictions of email, in smart assistants, in personalized search results, and in accurate online translations. Pharma companies are tapping the NLP expertise to collect useful information from unstructured piles of data. Furthermore, in clinical trials process, NLP helps analyze a large dataset and identify doctors or influencers within a specific dataset to tackle problems pertaining to patient recruitment.

With the NLP, doctors who haven’t been participated in any clinical trial can be identified. These principal investigators that can source patients that fit in a clinical trial’s criteria. In addition, the information gathered by NLP can help other research organizations to expand the market and save costs spent on marketing by deploying a large number of resources.

Looking forward to 2021 and Beyond

In the coming time, digital transformation will only continue to grow as a fair share of pharmaceutical and healthcare spending. By running in parallel to the pandemic, pharma companies need to reconsider their business strategies to suit the current scenario and to navigate smoothly to the next. Undoubtedly, the challenges will come along the journey, but the key is to respond fast to the emerging needs of customers and investors. And most importantly, always stay updated with the latest developments and trends happening in the industry to stand ahead of the competition.

At Icreon, we understand the importance of digital transformation. And that’s why we built digital assessment tool to evaluate your digital maturity in today’s ever changing digital world. Connect with our experts today to transform your old pharma business operations. 


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